'Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare' review: Shiny but scattered

The ‘Greater’ in Greater Noida is subjective. Dreams, for one, are in perpetual transit in that odd city.

Published: 19th September 2020 10:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2020 10:59 AM   |  A+A-

Still from 'Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare'

Still from 'Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare'

Express News Service

The ‘Greater’ in Greater Noida is subjective. Dreams, for one, are in perpetual transit in that odd city. “It’s almost ready...,” says a builder showing a family around an under-construction flat. Standing by herself on the balcony, Dolly (Konkona Sen Sharma) admires the blocks of concrete around her. The scene then cuts to Kajal (Bhumi Pednekar), standing motionless in a cramped bathroom. She’s househunting too, though the shift in stance and expression is telling.

Dolly is smiling, while Kajal looks blankly unsure. Alankrita Shrivastava’s new feature, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, traces two sisters on closely converging lines. Kajal moves in with her cousin and her family: an arrangement of sorts till she finds her feet in the big city. Her search for her own place speeds up when Amit (Aamir Baashir), her brother-inlaw, touches her inappropriately and refuses to relent (she tries bringing it up with Dolly, who laughs nervously and appears to brush it off).

Kajal moves out and takes up a job at an online befriending app (she uses her nickname, ‘Kitty’, on calls). Initially, Dolly is dismissive of her sister’s career choice. “It doesn’t suit us,” she says of her late hours and seedy clientele. However, as her own life works itself into a knot — she’s cold in bed with Amit, their marriage held together by two kids and the memory of an errant mother — Dolly grows closer to her cousin. Eventually, they take up lovers and start nudging each other to freedom. The film suffers from a profusion of themes. Kitty’s independence is tested by the crummy demands of her job. Dolly, an accountant, makes tea for her colleagues.

Her second child, Pappu, shows signs of gender dysphoria (by making Dolly the dominant parent, the film underlines how rigid gender roles are reinforced by women). There’s also her love affair with the much-younger Osman (Amol Parashar), and all the implication it carries. In Alankrita’s last feature, Lipstick Under My Burkha, four women who share a courtyard are bonded on their individual roads to freedom. The hyperlink format allowed multiple arcs and subplots to cohere peacefully. Dolly Kitty, though more concise and restricted to two protagonists, lacks that kaleidoscopic touch.

The ideas are potent but awkwardly rushed. Several times, you wish the film unfurled at its own pace, instead of making it all ‘fit’. Nowhere is this more evident than the climax: a prime example of sharp screenwriting succumbing to mounting time constraint. Like last time, Alankrita shows a knack for urban middle-class milieus. Dolly, though the more discreet and self-righteous of the duo, hustles around to pay up for her flat. The oppressive red of her bedroom is an ironic detail (there’s a lot of red in this film, from heart-shaped balloons to bloodstains on a sheet).

Neelima Azeem has a memorable cameo as Dolly’s estranged mother (again, the emotional weight of their meeting is quickly dispelled, like an afterthought). Konkona straddles a difficult role with bracing lightness. I smiled when Kajal is introduced as a new girl in the city — a hat-tip to Konkona’s own character in Wake Up Sid (2009). Bhumi is typically competent, while the men deliver signature charms: Aamir Bashir, sleazy yet efficient; Vikrant Massey, fresh out of space and into a pickle; and Amol Parasher, enough of a sport to be called ‘bhondu’ (softhead). At the risk of breaking his character’s heart — a delivery boy obsessed with stars — I’ll leave this film with three.

Director:Alankrita Shrivastava
Cast: Konkona Sen Sharma, Bhumi Pednekar, Vikrant Massey, Amol Parashar
Streaming on: Netflix


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